McConnell says 'pandemic will not prevent' confirmation of judges

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday morning that the coronavirus "pandemic will not prevent" the Senate from continuing to confirm judicial nominees once senators return to Washington, D.C., early next month.

The majority leader, in an appearance on the Hugh Hewitt Show, responded to a question from the host about the state of judicial nominations as most of Congress is out of town and legislators are negotiating the first of what could be two more stimulus packages aimed at holding the economy together.

"Well, the current plan is to go back in session on May the 4th. I haven’t seen anything that would discourage me from doing that," McConnell said. "And as soon as we get back in session, we’ll start confirming judges again. We need to have hearings, and we need to confirm judges."

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The Senate has confirmed 193 total Article III judges – judges on district courts, circuit courts or the Supreme Court, as well as the U.S. Court of International Trade – so far during President Trump's term, according to a tracker set up by the Article III Project, an organization dedicated to boosting Trump's judicial nominees.

Both McConnell and the president have made judicial confirmations a priority because of the lifetime nature of the appointments. Additionally, since Democrats claimed the majority in the House of Representatives in 2018, there has been less in the way of other legislative business to take care of in the Senate — McConnell has called himself the "grim reaper" of Democrats' "socialist agenda."

Trump's 193 total confirmed judges trails only Jimmy Carter at this point in his presidency. Additionally, Trump has confirmed 51 judges to circuit courts, which is the most of any president at this point in his first term. That total bests Carter by three and Richard Nixon, the president with the third-highest number of circuit judges confirmed by this point, by 17.

"My motto for the year is 'leave no vacancy behind,'" McConnell said, reprising a phrase he said was his motto last year too. "That hasn’t changed. The pandemic will not prevent us from achieving that goal."

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Democrats have put up unprecedented resistance to Trump's judicial nominees throughout his term, and have continued their efforts to slow the Senate's judicial conveyer belt with Trump's most recent nominees.

Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a liberal organization, slammed two of Trump's circuit court picks earlier this month.

"Trump intends to nominate Justin Walker to the influential DC Circuit. Walker helped lead the lobbying campaign for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court and lauded Kavanaugh for providing a ‘roadmap’ to overturn the Affordable Care Act," Gupta said. "Trump also announced that he intends to nominate Cory Wilson to the Fifth Circuit. Wilson has called the Affordable Care Act ‘freedom-infringing,’ 'perverse,' and 'illegitimate.'"

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She continued: "Walker and Wilson have both demonstrated hostility to a wide range of other critical civil and human rights issues as well, and Walker has little relevant legal experience."